As you turn the calendar over from 2017 into the new year, there is no question that marketing data continues to play a huge role in how marketing teams engage with their target audiences more efficiently and effectively.
The past year showed just how powerful artificial intelligence and machine-learning can be when paired with quality marketing data. New technology helped marketers make major strides in improving marketing efficiencies with better automation and predictive marketing techniques. At the same time, campaign effectiveness improved, too. More (and better) marketing data helped create tailored content, enhanced multi-channel campaigns, and introduced new personalization techniques that increased conversions and improved your audience’s brand experience.
Marketers are looking to build upon the positive momentum of a successful 2017 as they start laying out their marketing data priorities heading into the new year. The exciting news is that there is a lot for marketers to look forward to. From new forms of content marketing to enhanced lead nurture campaigns fueled by AI and high-quality marketing data, 2018 looks like yet another exciting year to be in marketing.
Take a look at the top four marketing data priorities for the year ahead.
#1. Content, Content, and More Content
Any prediction list for 2018 that does not start by at least mentioning the heightened role of content marketing headed into the new year is missing the mark. Here is why:
Seventy-six percent of marketing executives forecast an increase in their content marketing initiatives in 2018.
That does not just mean more content; it means better content for your target audience.
The Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 Benchmark Report shows that 80 percent of B2B marketers are focused on developing different audiences for content distribution. Forty-one percent are crafting content based on specific points in their customer’s journey, and 60 percent prioritize delivering content to the right person at the right time.
That data reveals one of the big priorities for marketers headed into 2018, which is to focus on creating content that resonates with your audience and deliver that content at the exact moment when your audience needs it most.
As the team over at CoSchedule writes about content in 2018:
“Content is not king; relevant content is. Don’t simply focus on creating high-quality content. Devote yourself to creating the right kind of high-quality content.”
In other words, spending exorbitant time creating “good” content does not really matter if that content does not align with what your audience needs from your organization. If 2017 was the year of “quality over quantity” for content marketing, 2018 is set to take that a step further and say “targeted quality over quantity.”
To get those targets, marketers rely on high-quality marketing data that reveals both the subject matter that resonates with their audience and the appropriate medium of delivery (i.e. blogs, video, case studies, infographics, etc.). Just as important as what you say is how you say it.
What is one of the most prominent forms of content delivery in 2018?
Social media posts. Ninety-four percent of B2B marketers now use social media to distribute content, which leads to the next big marketing data priority for 2018.
#2. The Expanding Role of Social Media in B2B Marketing
Everyone knows about social media ads. Though spending on advertising continued to increase in 2017, there is more to get from social media marketing in the new year than just traditional ad spend.
First, there is the continued impact of video on social networks. Businesses now publish an average of 18 videos per month, according to Hubspot. So clearly, the impact of video marketing has not diminished. It has, however, diversified. New techniques for video — like live streaming and augmented reality — are earning a seat at the social media marketing table in 2018. Today, 20 percent of Facebook videos are live streaming. Additional live stream opportunities exist on Twitter and Instagram, too.
Augmented reality marketing has the potential to play a huge role in audience engagement for 2018 as well. Take IKEA’s augmented reality furniture app, an exciting example of the way augmented and virtual reality can play in engagement during your customer’s journey toward making a purchase. Apple’s inclusion of augmented reality in the iOS11 update and release of ARkit technology that makes augmented reality app development easier has marketers excited about the prospect of this innovative new technology in 2018.
Then there is the increased role of artificial intelligence in social automation, particularly when it comes to customer care. Social chatbots that engage e-commerce customers through Facebook Messenger and other social channels became significantly more common in 2017. The potential for B2B marketers to use automated chat tools through social media channels seems to be on the horizon. Bots have the potential to help B2B marketers accelerate the customer journey and move leads through the sales funnel without any manual work from marketing. They can also help qualify and score your leads, schedule meetings with salespeople, and nurture leads with the right content to help them along their buyer’s journey.
The goal is to create a scalable experience that retains all the value of a personalized interaction without the manual process of engaging with every lead on an individual basis. In fact, that personalization element is a fairly consistent priority for most marketers headed into 2018.
#3. More Personalization = Better Brand Experience
The rise of bigger and better marketing data over the last few years has enabled a level of personalization that never existed before. Your business can (and should) collect demographic, behavioral, and psychological data about your customers and then leverage that data for better customer segmentation. Of course, a key part of what makes that segmentation successful is the quality of your data, but assuming you are using a data management platform to unify, clean, and enrich inbound customer information, the possibilities for personalization are nearly endless. This is why better personalization remains a top priority for most marketers headed into 2018. Here is what that looks like.
- More relevance. It is a simple fact that if you want your campaigns to be more successful, they need to resonate with your target audience. Much like the efforts to create more focused high-quality content, the relevancy of your campaigns to the individual makes a significant difference in the effectiveness of those campaigns. Personalization has expanded beyond basic demographic details like names and locations; in 2018, marketers need to be thinking about how to personalize campaigns based on behavioral and psychological data to have the impact you desire.
- Lead nurturing expands to current customers.
Nurture campaigns play an integral role in any successful marketing strategy. Often, that nurturing ends once a lead gets handed over to sales and converts to a new customer. Marketers in 2018 understand the value in retaining and selling to existing customers and as a result are prioritizing a better brand experience for them, too. Personalized campaigns aimed at current clients are an important marketing data priority in 2018.
- Better account-based marketing. ABM is no longer a radical marketing idea practiced by a few fringe marketers with a stomach for risky decisions. Eighty-three percent of marketers had some kind of ABM strategy in place in 2017. Because there is such a universal focus on ABM, marketing technology companies are starting to take notice. A wide range of new ABM tools entered the market in 2017 meant to help marketers create more targeted, personalized account plans for high-value clients.
ABM is not the only area where martech is improving. The final marketing data priority for 2018 centers around optimizing your martech stack for peak performance.
#4. Building a Better Martech Stack
The marketing technology landscape increased by 40 percent between 2016 and 2017 to over 5,000 solutions — a meteoric growth that only seems crazier when you consider that number was just 150 in 2011. That rapid growth aligns with a record high budget for marketing technology in 2017 as well, according to Gartner.
However, in 2018, that technology budget is set to decrease by 15 percent according to the latest CMO Spend Survey. The flux of new solutions and bandwagon jumping by inexperienced marketers quick to take on any and every shiny new tool to enter the market looks to have caused a “tightening of the belt” so to speak. CMOs want to see ROI from the tools they are investing in and as a result, many marketers will need to prioritize the tools in their martech stack in the new year.
If you find yourself in that position, one of the most important things you can do is ensure you have the foundational tools in place to set yourself up for success.
Most important among those is a good data management platform to help unify, clean, and enrich inbound customer data. Data management tools — like ReachForce — allow you to rest easy knowing the marketing data you use to influence the entire rest of your marketing strategy is high-quality, free of duplicates or misinformation, and enriched with as much supplementary data on your customers as is available. A good data management platform sits at the base of every successful marketing tech stack, and ReachForce is a go-to solution in this space.